One thing I hear from a lot of triathletes is that they don’t really know how to get faster in a race, even if they’re making an effort to improve their times. Here are 10 things that people commonly do that actually can sabotage athletes trying to go faster!
1) NOT PRACTICING TRANSITIONS
The first reason that you might not be getting faster is that you don’t practice transitions. Transition One (T1) and Transition Two (T2) are a couple of very good places to lose a bunch of time, but you can also gain a bunch of time there. The best way to figure out (and speed up) your transitions is to practice them. Go through a workout where you’re specifically just going through your T1 and T2 as many times as you can until you get comfortable. As you’re going through these transition workouts, mark in your head the order in which you need to do things so that in your race when you get out of the water or you’re about to come off the bike, you’re thinking about the steps that you need to take to go through it automatically.
(To read and see more on transitioning — also known as brick workouts — LINK HERE.)
2) GOING TOO HARD ON RECOVERY DAYS
This is a common mistake for those of us who have a big drive to do well in our races. But recovery days are just as important as the days we go full-out in the pool, on the bike, or running. Your recovery days should be at 50 or 60 percent of the normal volume with just a little bit of speed effort put in… OR you can do a long slow workout, with emphasis on the word SLOW. One year, professional triathlete Linsey Corbin changed coaches to work with someone who was such a big proponent of long, really slow recovery days that she was doing eight, nine, and ten minute miles to recover. That’s like tortoise slow and she’s a pro. Sometimes that’s what it takes because you want to stay active but you don’t want to be taxing yourself on recovery days. You have to slow it down to get faster, folks.
3) NOT FUELING PROPERLY ON LONG SWIM/BIKE/RUN DAYS
It’s critical to fuel yourself properly during your long efforts. If you don’t, by the time you get past about an hour and a half or two hours you’re not going to be going nearly as fast as you should be. Your body needs to learn how to go fast at that one, two, and three hour mark. If you haven’t fueled yourself properly coming into that, by the time you get to that point in the workout, you’re going to be so beat down that you can barely move. If you can’t do that effort in a workout, how are you going to be able to do it in a race? Fuel for your workouts just like you would a race. This is also good practice to get your stomach used to taking on all those calories during a race.
4) DOING TWO THINGS WRONG IN YOUR RUN TRAINING
For some reason, a lot of triathletes seem to approach their run training the wrong way. For starters, you might not be doing enough bike/run brick workouts. Put in a brick workout at least once a week. The bike doesn’t have to be intense and the run afterwards doesn’t have to be long; the main focus of a brick of workout is just getting your body used to running after the bike.
The next thing is that you might be doing too much comfortable training in no-man’s land. Runs done at 60 to 65 percent of your maximal effort are really good for making your heart healthy. Runs done at 80 or 85 percent of your max effort or higher are really good at making you faster. That no-man’s land in between about 70 and 80 percent doesn’t really do either very well. That’s a very comfortable place to run because it’s a very steady-state run, but it doesn’t do a whole lot for you as a competitor. Either roll yourself way back and go slower or go faster. In between is not a good place to be.
5) NOT KEEPING UP WITH BIKE MAINTENANCE
As I said in my BikeFit interview with my buddy James at Alter Ego Sports, we have to just be better to our bikes. James will tell you that a clean bike runs better, and it’s critical to clean your bike after every race or after you’ve done a lot of big indoor training sessions.
I used to be incredibly guilty of this myself because I was being lazy. Back when I first started, I only cleaned my chain maybe once every two months. It’s embarrassing, I know! I’ve learned my lesson, though. If your bike is not maintained properly, the gears, the brakes, the cables, nothing is going to move easily. There’s going to be extra friction and that friction is going to cause you to be a lot slower than you would otherwise be.
6) NOT DOING THE LITTLE THINGS RIGHT
If you’re not warming up, cooling down, or working out things like niggles as they come up, and you start getting sore, you’re not going to be able to go as hard as you need to in your key workouts. Beyond that, you might be building up injuries that will knock you on your ass for a long period of time. Take care of yourself properly so that you can stay injury free.
7) NOT BEING CONSISTENT ENOUGH
Consistency is absolutely key in triathlon. You’re better off doing a little bit seven days a week than doing a lot three days a week. Your body needs to accumulate a lot of fitness and that only happens with consistency, never getting too low so you don’t lose fitness on your off days. The key is to make sure that you’re not overtraining yourself, getting sick, injuring yourself, or burning yourself out and knocking yourself out of commission. You’re much better off just having a steady, slow build that’s consistent, and over the course of months and years I guarantee you’re going to be faster than if you went and killed yourself on just a few days every week.
8) LISTENING TO THE INTERNAL CHATTER DURING A RACE
It’s my belief that our minds will betray us before our bodies will during a race. It’s not uncommon to get into a race and find the voices in your head are saying stuff like:
“Hey, super hero, your legs hurt. Slow down, idiot.”
“Hey ugly, you’re not good enough to do a triathlon.”
“Hey jerk, why don’t you just walk?”
(That’s how my voices talk to me, anyway.)
Mental strength and being able to silence those voices is a critical part of doing well in a race and pushing harder when you need to. If you listen to those voices during training or during a race, it will be very hard to go any faster. Our emotions can very easily drag us downward.
9) RACING TOO MUCH
There are only so many times in a season that your body can go through an all-out race effort. When you’re planning out a year, you’ve got to look at the total intensity of the races that you do. If you’re doing sprints and Olympics, you can probably do a few more races than people who are doing Ironmans and full marathons. Your body takes a lot of time to recover after a race, so if you’re doing races back to back-to-back, weekend after weekend, you’re going to do nothing but beat yourself down. And that brings us back to the point of being over-trained, not taking care of yourself, and not being consistent. You’ve got to build your schedule around an appropriate amount of racing that your body can handle while still being able to build for the race, but also being able to recover after the race is over.
10) FOCUSING TOO MUCH ON YOUR NUMBERS
If you’re training with a heart rate monitor, a GPS watch, a power meter, but you’re not actually paying attention to how your body feels, you might be lining yourself up for over training. It’s very easy to get SO focused on hitting your numbers that you might not listen to your body’s own signals and realize you need to take a rest. Some days you just can’t put in that sort of effort. If you’re an absolute slave to your numbers, it’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes you need to read those numbers to push yourself past plateaus, but if you’re doing it to the detriment of your body and you’re beating yourself down more than you can handle, you’re not going to be getting very fast. Use numbers, but at the same time, listen to what your body is telling you.
To see the Triathlon Taren video featuring 10 mistakes you could be making, click here!